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'The Baby-Sitters Club' succeeds in blending nostalgia with current issues

Jessicha Valentina
Jessicha Valentina

The Jakarta Post

Jakarta  /  Wed, July 8, 2020  /  10:32 am

The Baby-Sitters Club, an adaptation of the series of young adult novels by American author Ann M. Martin, is now available for streaming on Netflix. Published between 1986 and 2000, the books are known for smartly educating readers about sensitive and difficult matters, such as divorce and illness, while also presenting topics that are relevant to teenagers, including puberty, first love and friendship. The Netflix series carries a similar tone and style, while the story is updated to cover current issues.

Set in the fictional suburb of Stoneybrook, Connecticut, seventh-grader Kristy Thomas (Sophie Grace) comes up with the idea of establishing a baby-sitters club after seeing her mother Elizabeth Thomas (Alicia Silverstone) having a hard time finding a reliable sitter.

The bossy Kristy invites her introvert best friend Mary Anne (Malia Baker) and artsy friend-slash-neighbor Claudia Kishi (Momona Tamanda) to form the club. Claudia then introduces them to Stacey McGill (Shay Rudolph), who has recently moved from New York City to Stoneybrook. Later on, Dawn Schafer (Xochiti Gomez) also joins the club.

Similar to the books, each episode is narrated by a different club member in the first person. It shows how the characters deal with various issues, varying from a strict father, a new stepfather, to honesty and, of course, puberty.

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While the main storyline stays faithful to the books, fans may notice that the series heavily discusses contemporary issues, making it relevant to the current generation. In several episodes, supporting characters are shown to have same-sex relationships. While the “Mary Anne Saves the Day” episode shines a light on the complexity of being transsexual. These topics are discussed subtly without patronizing the younger viewers. 

Moreover, showrunner Rachel Shukert succeeded in blending nostalgia with modernity. A landline phone, for example, is one of the most iconic parts of The Baby-Sitters Club. Although all club members are shown to have mobile phones, Kristy chooses an "olden times phone" for the business, so their clients can contact all babysitters with one phone call. It’s a witty and believable way to include a landline phone in the show.

As a fan of the book, I find the show both entertaining and satisfying. I couldn’t help but feel nostalgic every time I recognized a familiar plot or character. I also think that The Baby-Sitters Club captures the main quality and delight of the books: teaching young viewers about difficult topics without the slightest hint of condescension. (wng)

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